Published May 16, 2014D.O. (a.k.a. Defy the Odds) is an accomplished solo rapper, half of dance rap duo Art of Fresh (with Slakah the Beatchild), and one-time holder of the Guinness World Record for longest freestyle rap, as well as a motivational speaker and children's author. Juggling all of those things is important to D.O., but the current ball in the air is new independent solo album, Down Home, a fantastic ode to Nova Scotia, with lots of local talent, songs celebrating the province, the flag on the front cover, and an album title that references visits to the area.
"'Down home,' that's kind of slang [used by] Scotians that have moved away," D.O. tells Exclaim! "So growing up, we would always say that [to] mean we were going back to Nova Scotia, whether for a vacation or for a couple of weeks. I was born in Saskatchewan but I moved away at a young age and I grew up all over Ontario, so Nova Scotia was one of those constants for me, down home was something that was always a constant reminder of my family and a reminder of my heritage. And especially as a black Canadian, there's so much history in Nova Scotia."
The album didn't start out with that theme. Like the inspiration for the album itself — Classified's "Intro - Ups and Downs" from Handshakes and Middle Fingers — the direction of the album was also influenced by the East Coast rapper-producer, even if unintentionally.
On that song, says D.O., "[Classified]'s talking about getting older in the music industry and how he wants to transition to building a label, Halflife, he just hasn't found a lot of artists that will make that same sacrifice. That really just connected with me because I've known Class for a long time and he's seen my work ethic and we've made music on every one of my albums. I hit him up and I was like, 'You know, man, we should do a whole album together, you know I work hard.'"
Working with Classified meant recording in Class's Enfield, NS home studio. D.O. admits, "Being there really influenced the album, cuz it's not just being in the studio, it's all of Nova Scotia. Just the person you get coffee from down the street. Nova Scotia people are very unique in the sense of their personality and in their warmth. Even some of the lyrics come about from just conversations we had in the studio."
The theme of the album "really evolved," according to D.O., but it came from being in Nova Scotia, whether it be the studio conversations, the Halifax rappers and singers such as Mic Boyd, Spesh K, J-Bru and Chad Hatcher coming through the studio, or the family visits and East coast vibe outside the studio.
"We came up with the song 'Down Home' about halfway through the recording process, but I even had that idea after the first session," he says. "I would fly down, I'd spend my time doing some music, but then it would also be about family. I'd go up and see my grandmother in New Glasgow, and my uncle. My uncle was 97 at the time, so getting a chance to see my uncle was really cool before he passed away, and he passed during the recording process."
Recording with Classified not only shaped the direction but also improved the quality of the album, with the producer providing important advice and his brother providing inspiration.
"We have a good working relationship," says D.O. of Classified, adding, "Because he's not only a producer, he's also a rapper, sometimes he would give me tips, like maybe I should say a word this way. Or there were some times when I would spit a verse and he'd be like, 'Dope!' and I'd be like, 'Great!' But then there were some times where he'd just be like, 'That one was cool,' and whenever I'd hear that I'd be like, 'Let me scrap that verse and I'mma go make it that much better.'"
Of the credit he gives to brother Mic Boyd, he says, "Mic Boyd is kind of a fixture in the studio... Having him around for a lot of the album creation was great because Mic Boyd is a great songwriter and a great lyricist so I always knew I had to come strong with my lyrics."
The results are undeniable. At only 10 tracks in length, Down Home is a lean rap release without filler, a fine example of the type of work that could only come from two artists with chemistry collaborating in the studio space.
Along with some international gigs to Taiwan, Singapore and Europe, D.O. will pair back up with Slakah the Beatchild as duo Art of Fresh for their Good Morning Yesterday in August.